I’ve always been a generally insecure person. This had pervaded many aspects of my life—including my writing. Lacking confidence in my ability as a writer has not only been damaging to my creative progress but to my well-being. Although writing is something that’s very introspective and personal, sharing your writing with others is very different, it’s allowing yourself to be vulnerable.
I took my first formal writing workshop in the fall of my sophomore year. I’d been in a few small weekend workshop series in conferences and camps, but this was more involved and enduring than anything I’d been a part of before. Over the course of the semester, I certainly had many ups and downs, but by the end of the semester, I emerged as a more confident writer and person. I ended up participating in another workshop the next semester in the spring, which further propelled my growth.
The first few weeks in the workshop, I was a nervous wreck. The thought of having my writing picked apart and compared to the likes of my classmates caused much anxiety. I would pour over my drafts for days in fear that others would find errors. In the class itself, I barely spoke and offered little feedback to my peers because I was too focused on my insecurities.
As the weeks passed by, I began to grow more comfortable with the group, which was the first step to chipping away at my self-doubt. The longevity and small size of the workshop group fostered a sense of community. I had to take a step outside of myself and recognize that I am not alone in my worries. Everybody was in the same situation as me. We were all gathered for one thing: to help each others writing flourish. Keeping that in mind allowed me to tear down some of the protective walls that I had built up. For the first time, I had others there right beside me for the writing process. Although I was still worried about the perception of my pieces, I definitely relaxed in my revision processes before submission. In the workshop I took this spring, I submitted a piece that I was rather unsure about and was unfinished. One year ago, that was something my anxiety would have never allowed me to do. By submitting such an unpolished piece, I was able to receive some really insightful feedback regarding not only my writing but the overall direction of the piece that I wouldn’t have gotten if I had submitted something more refined.
Although the first thing that comes to mind with workshops is the aspect of critique, the workshop structure also makes space for recognition and kudos. Sometimes, it’s really difficult to tell when you’re doing well—and everybody needs a pat on the back. Whether it’s a small smiley face in green pen or a quick note on your manuscript, it can do a whole lot to somebody’s self-perception! Getting positive feedback transformed the way that I saw my own writing and made me realize that I should have confidence in myself as a writer.
Overall, participating in workshops can only help! No matter whether it’s an afternoon-long event or something over the course of a few, the presence of a writing community and positivity can help boost your confidence.